The Seoul of the South
Intermediate Korean Restaurants
As promised, here is a list of some intermediate level Korean establishments for those interested in slightly more authentic dishes. It's not that these restaurants are better in quality than the previous list, but the menu items on this list can be a bit more challenging or intimidating. This list also contains restaurants that offer more traditional, family-style dishes that often remind diners of their grandmother's cooking. So, if you are feeling up to the challenge, then dive right in and enjoy the following selections.
Jang Su Jang
Jang Su Jang is a long time staple in Atlanta's Korean community. Steering clear of Korean BBQ and fried chicken, they specialize in classics, such as steamed pork belly served with pickled cabbage and galbi-jjim, a slow simmered short rib stew that is a favorite of anyone longing for homestyle cuisine. Jang Su Jang also offers a nice selection of traditional fish dishes such as stewed mackeral and grilled saury. Haemul pajeon, a seafood filled pancake, is another popular dish and one that diners repeatedly return for. The restaurant is extremely popular in the evenings and on the weekends and does not accept reservations, so be sure to arrive early and check it out.
Well Bean Tofu
If you are in the mood for some spice, then you have to go to Well Bean Tofu House in Duluth. This establishment has been serving the best soondubu, silken tofu, in metro Atlanta since it opened over 10 years ago. Soondubu is typically a firery red soup that arrives bubbling and requires the diner to crack a raw egg into it upon arrival. Once cool enough, this dish is accompanied by rice and a number of traditional Korean side dishes. It definitely takes a more adventurous eater to navigate this experience, but if the spice scares you, then Well Bean offers mild and non-spicy options as well. You can order your soondubu with your choice of protein ranging from beef or pork to various types of seafood. Even offal, such as intestines, are offered for those who are more hardcore than me.
Finally, while Korean BBQ may not seem difficult, Mapo BBQ offers a different environment from some of the sterile and quiet establishments in the area. Gone are the modern interior designs, slick tables, and polished adornments replaced by a humble, authentic galbi house fixings of a place on the outskirts of Seoul. Mapo is a full impact dining experience from the hot charcoal placed in front of you, and then you dig into some of the best marinated meat you will ever taste. Be sure to dress casually as you will definitely leave smelling of meat and smoke. The side dishes, while delicious, are also advanced. The highlight is a marinated and fermented raw crab side dish that while very popular with our parent's generation is not something that my friends and I eat regularly.
All of the places listed offer outstanding food experiences, but they may be a bit more challenging that what I consider the entry level establishments. Still, I encourage everyone to go out and try one or all of these places. Service is very friendly, and the staff will happily guide you through you menu selections to make your experience more enjoyable. Who knows? You may even find a new favorite place or dish right in your own backyard.